Monday, February 22, 2010

Wacka Wacka Wacka!! Is a Wacka like a Wiki?

Figuratively speaking no, the two are completely unrelated. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if someone knew what wacka wacka wacka meant and was totally clueless about the wiki, or vice versa. I remember being a little girl and watching all the children’s programming that was done on the local Buffalo new station. I also remember the shows on PBS including Sesame Street. From Jim Henson’s Muppets, to Tom Jolls on WKBW in Buffalo, to Romper Room I loved learning cool new things and being entertained by these shows. I was especially fascinated by Sesame Street and the outrageous and colorful characters made by Jim Henson on his popular The Muppet Show. These ‘old-fashioned’ shows still give me a charge. What saddens me though is that most of the children I meet while I substitute at all school levels do not know what wacka wacka wacka means. Jokes that I made it high school were often followed with this punchline. Now, if I make a joke and follow it with this phrase I get blank stares and the occasionally grumble that sounds something like: “is she making a joke?” , or “is that a real word?”, or most recently, “is a wacka like a wiki?” Surely with all the important subjects that must be taught in school today, educating students about 1970s and 1980s sitcoms is surely of negligible important. None the less, I know what a wacka and a wiki are, so why doesn’t everyone else?
As an adult, and a teacher, I have forgiven all those who do not know what Muppets are those who are unfamiliar with Wikis. My focus has shifted too Muppets to wikis. I remember them in their early developmental stages when I was an undergraduate at teaching college. wikis had a bad rap for being inaccurate, poorly organized, and unreliable. Several years after they have had time to grow and flourish, with much needed help, many people’s initial apprehension to using wikis has developed into an eager curiosity. In Will Richardson’s book Blogs, wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Tools for the Classroom, he explains this phenomenon with detail and clarity.
I willingly admit that I am one who was once skeptical, but is now curious and eager to learn more. This book made connections for me and explained how useful Wikis can be adapted for classroom use. Although there are potential downfalls with any kind of Online instruction, especially in schools where content is filtered, I think wikis can do much more good than bad. Our Wiki for this class is private and requires an invitation for membership into the class. I think if a teacher could develop a secure site such as this, students would really benefit, Without the confines of paper printing, notebook organizing, or limited instruction or discussion time, a wiki can truly transform a good classroom into a fantastic, interconnected, and challenging one.
In chapter 4 of Wil Richardson’s book, he uses dynamic examples and straight forward explanations to convince the reader of how use class wikis are. Although a strong leader and information manager is necessary to ensure the success of a wiki, his logic is that this will positively impact your teaching and your students. He feels a wiki can encourage better communication, more sharing of ideas and resources, more timely delivery of information and instruction, and provide a place for students and instructors to express and exchange ideas that were not discussed in class. With students so actively exploring an enjoying multimedia outlets, he views a class wiki as a way of making a class more complete. I wholeheartedly agree with ideas. Although I do not have the skills yet to produce a Wiki, I do have the skills to locate reliable information and to create a physical outline of how I would like my wiki to look. I no longer think wikis are all bad. I am excited and intrigued by them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Well if I copy it for educational purposes it's ok, RIGHT?

I can honestly say I was eager to know the answers to this question when I became an LIS student. From reading Carol Simpsons' text Copyright for Schools: A Practical Guide (Fourth Edition) I think I am gaining a better grasp on copyright issues for schools. I would say that I'm a pragmatic person and this text explores the issues in a practical and pragmatic way. I think part of the reason that schools, students, and educators do not want to ask copyright questions is because they are afraid of the answer they might get. If you really feel that you are stealing a unique idea or concept in a way that was not intended by the original creator, you probably are. Now, if a work is part of public domain, well most bets off. None the less, print materials in schools are an area that deserve more attention and respect. How can schools be models of ethics and integrity if they are improperly using artwork and resources without permission?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

If only web portals involved Toby McGuire as Spider Man

I think that organization, precision, and clear directions are the keys for using search tools in libraries. School librarians must really be able to identify the search habits of their students, identify strengths and weaknesses, and provide useful suggestions and search strategies to combat wasted time and energy studetns and teachers use to search aimlessly for information on the Internet. I have seen many successful teachers create and publish web portals, through their school websites, that capture the essence of effective research using search engines and other web based tools. For a better understanding of web portals, visit this page at Microsoft for a brief look at the benefits of web portals.
The positive components that a well constructed page could offer might increase teacher and student search strategies and their abilities to effectivley and swiftly locate information within the school's databases, library catalogue, Online reference sources, and teacher created web pages.
I looked for a couple great web portals using the search terms 'web portals + schools' and here's a couple good ones I found...
and another one I was aware of but did not find on the search engine
This one does not look too flashy, but it is organized and laid out well.
I think we all should a big professional development day and make our own web portals. If only web portals involved Toby McGuire as Spider Man, so many more schoosl librarians and other staffers would be really interested.

I Raise My Hand for Chocolate Milk

Since this new semester of graduate school for LIS began, I have been listening to education podcasts from National Public Radio. I think NPR tries harder than most news sources to provide well researched and balanced interviews and stories. The pieces on education it has done within the last year range from topics such as restructuring teaching programs for teachers, repayment of student loans, using weblogs as an instructional tools and web 2.0 technology. The segments are often relevant and timely. I was quite surprised, however, to hear a story from a January news cast that highlighted the efforts school staffers to ban chocolate milk from schools. The interviewer visited a school and spoke staff members and students about how they felt about having chocolate milk removed for its high sugar content and replacing it with organic milk. I think this is ridiculous. All the schools in the city where I live, nine total for grades K - 12, have eliminated soda and candy bars from vending machines. Many snacks are still sold in school stores and in the cafeteria, including high suger juice drinks, ice cream desserts, and french fries. I do not think that taking chocolate mild out of schools will solve health issues for school age children. Maybe looking at district wide recipes and food policies would be a better start. When I substitute teach and buy a lunch, I always grab a lowfat chocolate milk with my lunch. It's still milk, despite having a little more sugar in it. Check out this website to keep chocolate milk in school cafeterias. Maybe this will raise awareness for the growing demand for all around healthier food options in all schools.

Friday, February 5, 2010

TTFN used to be cute when Tigger said it, so how are we supposed to remember all the new tech. acronyms that aren't quite so cute

First of all, is anyone else as confused as me by all the technology terms new LIS students must grasp. If a shortcut is helpful, especially in schools, I'm all for it. But, too many tech. terms to me is a bit of a turn off. So here's a review of all the tech terms I've learned in my first 6 months in the LIS program:

HTML - hpyer text markup language = language used on the Web that incorporates texts, graphics, sound, video and other other multi-media tools
URL - uniform resource locator = address of resource on the Web
RSS - really simple syndication = web feed format used to publish updated works such as blogs or news feeds
IL - information literacy = being able to understand information, how it's needed, how its used, etc.
ICT - information and communication technology = it is a way for you to participate in communicating with the world using new forms or communication and technology
AT - assistive technology = tools used by educators to help students academically and physically
I even found a cool acronym guide for technology, electronics, & video games
and another one for information technology

My hope is not only to survive library school, but to remember all these acronyms. Why are they all so important? They all represent important concepts in our field. Just like we expect other educators to remember that SLMS is a school library media specialist, we should be able to identify an RSS. As information aficionados, we need to find ways for people to connect with these dynamic concepts. I think the role of the school librarian has really gone through a metamorphosis in the last ten years. Libraries are no longer store houses of information. We need to find ways to not only make our students book literate, but also information literate. Fifty years ago if you couldn't read road signs, you probably couldn't get a driver's license becasue you would fail your driver's test. Today, if you can't fill out a digital application for college on the computer, along with the necessary student aid and loan information, or visit the college's Online website, you probably will not be accepted or attend this school, especially if it's a competitive university. The idea is the same. Young people need to be able to navigate in the world whether its passing a driver's test and getting their license or graduating from college with the qualities desired by a good employer. What worked in schools fifty nifty years ago, needs an upgrade.

Students need ICT skills to navigate in the world. Teachers in all subject areas should help them to develop these skills beginning in kindergarten. Low tech and high tech talents can be taught gradually and easily. Collaberation, communication, and flexibility will definitely help this process and that includes teachers, students, AND the community. I think state's need to encourage schools to implement IT and ICT practice into the curriculum. Teacher's have professional development days, maybe we could do the same for the students. If I had my way, I would offer a distant learning class that is similar to our Computer Applications in the School Library class, but at an appropriate level for students from grades K - 12. Each year students could take the class Online, and it would be part of a grade for class such as tech., business, ELA, whatever works for the school. They would be encouraged to use technology to learn about technology within and among their global neighbors.
I would support this initiative at my school and in my state.

Technology acronyms aren't so cute if you don't understand what they mean. If you learn to use them and can make sense of them, then you're making progress. If you can make a joke about them, then kudos to you, because your ICT nerd-om has arrived. If you're eager to find what they mean and seek out answers to all these questions, you might just belong with me in library school.